I joined a gym. Mainly to feel better and stay alive a little longer, so that I could continue to mother my ungrateful children.

This gym. It has a crèche. It’s very glam. There’s the actual exercising bit with all the fancy machines and weights and stuff and then…..

Downstairs…..There is a ‘naked floor’.

The changing room is naked. Not so strange. The open showers are naked. Fair enough really.

Then downstairs there is a ‘Wellness Centre’. A sauna – steam room – jacuzzi – swimming pool – slice – of – mama – paradise. There is also a restaurant, an outside bit and a massage bit. The place is massive.

Now here’s an interesting thing.

All this swanning around in the buff has made me notice something. No one has any bush. It’s like they are part of some ‘ritual shaving at the door’ cult. I’m not saying I’m militantly au naturel, strutting around with a banging-feminist-fro, but I definitely keep the muff. I like it. It stays. It gets beaten into submission for the summer time and swimsuits, but I don’t strip it to pre-pubescent status. WHY would I?!

I’m not a porn star. No cameras will be pointing at my lady…. No one needs to look at my junk that close up and I’ve got kids who need to see a mama looking well, mama like.

Every single person in my gym is bald.

BALD. Baldy, baldy, bald, bald.

All. of. them.

Is this a genetic thing? If not, why the lack of hirsute status? They can’t ALL be that into hair removal, can they? Where do they all get the time to do all that strimming?

When I filled out my registration papers to join, they told me I had to shave. Just kidding. The guy registering told me about this nudist paradise downstairs. I chuckled and then he said,

“It’s very nice, to feel free like you are a kid again”. Obviously didn’t have a childhood headed up by Irish Catholic nuns then.

Anyway, the first time I went downstairs, there was kind of an ‘overcoming’ thing I had to do. Not a fear exactly, more just like hopping outside the comfort zone. A zone where pants stay on. I stripped. Wrapped a towel and headed downstairs. There was NO ONE around. My anxiety began to babble at me:

“What if it’s the joke they play on all expat newcomers?

What if I’m supposed to have a swimsuit on me and it’ll be like a caught-on-camera, funny thing, the whole gym will laugh at?”

I hung the towel up and showered. In a large communal space with a row of six showers. There was still no one to be seen. My anxiety was by now convincing me that I needed to get some undercrackers on fast. I walked as calmly as possible to the sauna.

That walk that you do to convince yourself you are calm, not scared & in control? I was doing it now.

I opened the door of the sauna. No one in there. Where on earth was everyone? Definitely prank territory, this absence of bodies. I spread my towel on the pine bench & lay down. Closed my eyes very firmly. Started sweating. The door clicked open. There was a muttered greeting. I kept my eyes squeezed shut as the flip flop footsteps approached, then cracked them just as the person walked past. I was eyeballing straight into a man’s wang. Never been so happy to glimpse tallywhacker in my whole life. Sighed with great relief and continued sweating.

I was lounging around with a strange (bald) man and his sausage in a small, sweaty, wooden cubicle. It was all a bit 70s Swedish swingers, but that didn’t concern me as much as the ‘only – kid – without – pants fear’.

That restaurant though? Still haven’t been there. Too much, the whole nude with food thing. Maybe next month.

I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We now live in the Netherlands, in Dutch suburbia with our two differently wired, small kids. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all the Dutchness around me.

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